45 Day Hunger Strike Against Keystone XL Pipeline and Valero Comes to an End
After an incredible 46 days, Bob Lindsey Jr. and Diane Wilson have announced the end of their hunger strike targeting Valero and its role in promoting projects like Keystone XL.
After 45 days of fasting on nothing but water and occasional fruit juice, longtime Gulf Coast activists Diane Wilson and Bob Lindsey, Jr. called an end to their hunger strike. The duo undertook the potentially life-threatening, longest lasting hunger strikes they had ever attempted in solidarity with immigrant communities facing environmental injustice in the Houston neighborhood of Manchester and Canadian First Nations communities fighting for indigenous rights and dignity.
“In Houston’s toxic East End, home to the largest petrochemical complexes in North America, marginalized communities of color are forced to breathe poisoned air,” Wilson and Lindsey, Jr. declared in a joint statement released on Tar Sands Blockade's website yesterday. “Children here are exposed to eight different cancer causing toxins at all times and homes are encapsulated by huge industrial storage tanks. The Valero refinery billows poison on top of the community’s only park. What is happening in Manchester is a living case of environmental racism and classism.”
The small, predominantly Latino community of Manchester is the most polluted neighborhood in Texas, with Valero responsible for most of the pollution. Instead of working to reduce emissions, Valero plans to bring tar sands to Texas through the toxic Keystone XL pipeline, further denigrating the air, water, and environmental quality of local communities.
In reaction to the proposed gutting of First Nation sovereignty and treaty rights in Canada, Wilson and Lindsey, Jr. ended their strike by announcing solidarity with fellow-hunger striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, who is on day 36 of her fast. Spence is demanding a sit-down meeting with both Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston.
Bob Lindsey Jr.
“The Canadian government has failed to honor First Nation treaty rights by not consulting tribal communities about enormously toxic industrial projects like the tar sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada. Chief Spence, Idle No More and blockades like the Unist'ot'en Camp have become catalysts for resistance to the destruction of the earth and struggle against the colonization of its inhabitants, a battle that First Nation communities have fought for over 500 years on this continent,” Wilson and Lindsey, Jr. added in their online statement.
“By standing with Manchester in its demands upon Valero to close the refinery currently poisoning their homes, Bob and Diane embody the sacrifice necessary to push issues of petrochemical industrial pollution to the fore of the global conscience,” said Ramsey Sprague, a spokesperson for Tar Sands Blockade. “Through their hunger strike, they have nourished the hearts and minds of thousands inspired to act for climate and environmental justice. Despite their bodies having withered, the movement has only grown more resolved through their leadership and vision.”
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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